Why I read this book: I’ve had my eyes set on this book for a long time now and when RGR offered me a free copy in exchange for an honest review, I snatched it.
Blurb: Out-and-regretting-it comprehensive attendee Jayden Phillips turns his cast-iron plans for life upside-down by falling in love with private-school violinist Darren Peace, a sardonic boy with the craziest hair Jayden’s ever seen.
But all is not what it seems, and Jayden’s bullying problem becomes meaningless when he is confronted with what the music does to Darren. How do you stop a dangerous depression rooted in the same thing that makes someone what they are? Dark moods, blank apathy, and the undertow of self-loathing all simmer beneath Darren’s dry and beautiful veneer, and Jayden feels powerless to stop them.
Then a mugging gone wrong takes the music forcibly away, and Jayden is finally given the chance to change Darren’s life — and, quite literally, his mind.
My thoughts: This book is important! This book should be in the school curriculum or, at the very least, in every school library. Every teenager should read it regardless of whether they’re gay, straight, in between or undecided. I can’t stress that enough. If there’re any parents reading this, please make sure your teenagers reads Vivaldi in the Dark. It might change their lives.
Vivaldi in the Dark is a YA LGBT novel set in a small English town. Sixteen year old Jayden is a shy kid who is bullied in school because everyone assumes he’s gay. They’re right – he’s not exactly hiding it, even if he hadn’t publicly come out yet. A single child to working class parents, Jayden counts the days until he can take a scholarship exam and hopefully get accepted to do his sixth form in St. John’s – a private school at the other side of town. His dream is to study in Cambridge and it would be much easier to achieve if he had St. John’s in his resume.
Two years, that’s how much it’ll take until he’s out of his school and his own personal hell. To escape the bullies, Jayden spends most of his afternoons hanging around a theatre where his mother is an amateur actress. One day he arrives at the empty theatre hall only to hear a sad melody being played nearby. On an instinct, Jayden follows the music and finds someone playing a violin in the dark supply closet.
Darren is cocky, confident, talented, and studies in St. John’s. The moment the boys meet, their lives change forever even if they don’t realise it yet. Darren has a lot of demons to fight, and, at the tender age of fifteen, is already tired of fighting them on his own.
Jayden is scared – he’s too young himself to be able to help Darren, and the idea that anything he does might not be enough terrifies him.
“I’m fucked up in the head and I don’t know why, and…I know it’s stupid, Jayden, believe me, I fucking know. And I’ve tried to get over it, I’m still trying, but it’s not working.”
“Look, I’m just saying…This,” Darren waved a hand between them, “isn’t going to be fun. I’m not going to be fun. Maybe every now and then I’ll be in the right place in my head to have silly dates out and go to parties with you, but there’s going to be days when I don’t want to know either of us exist, and there’s going to be days when I’m too tired to play because I’ve been up all night destroying my room, and…and I can’t promise…I can’t promise that I won’t. You know. Stop.”
But the two boys manage to find a way to be together, to conquer their fears and insecurities, to get to know one another, to give each other hope.
“I know it’s not the violin causing your…your illness, but it makes you worse. You know how I know you’re having a bad day sometimes? … You only ever play Vivaldi when you’re hurting and you’re miserable and I hate it because you’re not even letting off steam. You’re even more upset when you’re finished playing than when you started, and I…I hate it, Darren, I hate your violin. I hate your constant practice and I hate that you hate it, and I fucking hate Vivaldi.”
I adored this book! When I read the first two pages I already knew I’m going to fall desperately in love with it. The writing is amazing – it is so sensual, so flowing, and yet so unpretentious and easy to immerse myself into. The dialogue and the constant banter between the boys is written very skilfully, without a trace of cheesiness, and I enjoyed it very much.
“My friends are girls,” Jayden said. “The other guys, they don’t…you know, it’s weird. Being friends with a gay guy. You know, they might…I don’t know, it’s like they think I’m catching.”
Darren snorted. It echoed oddly in the bathroom. “I’m friends with a black guy; doesn’t mean I tan better in the summer.”
I loved that there isn’t much action in this book. Vivaldi in the Dark is not about what happens; it’s about two young people finding themselves and managing to deal with so much at such a tender age.
But he didn’t say a word as Darren pulled himself impossibly closer and the hot dampness of tears began to collect in Jayden’s hair and on the pillowcase. He didn’t say anything as the shaking became more violent. He kept quiet as that arm pinned and clung for dear life, and he held his tongue when the sound of Darren crying, actually crying, ripped into his own chest and burned a path up to his throat. The ceiling swam blearily above them, and Jayden said nothing.
There’s no sex on page which was a huge relief for me. Now, don’t get me wrong – I love my sexy stories. But I’d have felt extremely uncomfortable reading an explicit sex scene between two teenagers. The decision to keep the sex off page is a very wise one – it means you can put the book in your kid’s hands without any concerns.
I can’t name a single thing I don’t love about Vivaldi in the Dark. It’s perfection. Read it.
Where to buy: Amazon, Queerteen Press
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